"Listening to Fear"
Written by Jane Espenson; directed by David Solomon

Buffy and Dawn hang out with Joyce in her hospital room and are informed by her doctor that she is scheduled for surgery two days later. Joyce isn’t thrilled about having to wait, and encourages Buffy to go out and patrol instead of waiting around with her. Buffy assures her that the Scoobies are taking care of things. Which they are, if “taking care of things” means “slaying about as effectively as Xander, Willow, and Oz did in ‘Anne.’” Xander, Willow, and Giles eventually kill some vamps, then complain that Riley ditched them again. He seems to be too busy letting a vampire feed off of him in an abandoned warehouse.

Willow brings Joyce, Buffy, and Dawn presents at the hospital, playing “tiny Jewish Santa.” She gives Joyce a beer hat, Dawn a book on witchcraft, and Buffy homework and a yoyo. Joyce makes a slightly crazy comment, which you should get used to, because this episode is full of them. In the hallway, Buffy encounters another new member of the Psych Ward Special Secret Society - the guard whose brain Glory sucked in “No Place Like Home.” The guard looks at Dawn and says, “What is the data? There’s no one in there.” Ben arrives and tells Buffy that the psych ward is full.

On top of their dorm, Willow and Tara camp out and look at the stars. Tara reveals her strange yet amusing talent for naming constellations (“the real ones never made sense to me”). Their game is interrupted when they see what looks like a flaming meteor crashing to Earth. In the woods, the guard wanders around near the wreckage of the maybe-meteor, then is killed by a really weird demon thing (hereafter known as the Queller Feller). The Queller Feller winds up at the hospital, where it crawls on the ceiling. Buffy tells Joyce’s doctor, Dr. Kriegel, that Joyce wants to go home for the night. He is reluctant at first, but they talk him into it.

The Scoobies head out to the spot where the Queller Feller landed and find a huge trench. They look around to see where the Queller Feller is and find the dead guard. Riley discovers some sort of black goo in the guard’s mouth and the Scoobies immediately want to call Buffy, but decide that they should let her tend to Joyce. Rather than head into the woods (they’ll save that for the next episode), the Scoobies head off to research while Riley stays behind and calls Graham. The Queller Feller goes to the psych ward and goos up one of the patients. It then watches as the Summerses prepare to leave the hospital.

Graham and some other commandos arrive in the woods and Major Ellis takes charge. At the Summers’ house, the Queller Feller lurks around while Buffy and Dawn watch TV. Joyce goes into the kitchen, confused, and her behavior startles Dawn and Buffy. She tells Dawn that she’s “nothing,” which upsets the little Key. Dawn tells Buffy that people have been saying strange things about her and Buffy tries to assure her that it doesn’t mean anything. At UC Sunnydale’s library, the Scoobies look for info on the “killer snot monster.” Willow discovers that a series of meteor crashes similar to the one they’re dealing with can be traced back to the Queller impact in the 12th century. Xander finds more information in a book - in primitive times, the moon was thought to cause insanity, and they would pray for a meteorite to fall to earth to quell the insane people. In the Middle Ages, “sweeping plagues of madness” would suddenly stop, not too long after the meteorite landings. They suspect that Glory is behind the Queller Feller and call Riley to fill him in. He tells them that five people in the psych ward have been killed the same way the guard was.

In bed, Joyce continues talking crazy and Dawn, hearing her through the wall, grows upset. In the kitchen, Buffy listens to Salsa music, washes dishes, and cries. The Queller Feller gets into Joyce’s room and prepares to goo her. At the hospital, Riley realizes that the Queller Feller has gone to Casa Summers and takes off. Dawn hears Joyce screaming during her gooification and runs to her room. She tries to fight off the Queller Feller and yells for Buffy, who at first can’t hear her over the Salsa music. She finally comes running and begins to fight the Queller Feller while Joyce tries to comfort Dawn. Spike arrives, lying that he was stealing from the Summers’ basement, and joins the fight. Buffy stabs the Queller Feller to death just before Riley and the commandos arrive.

Outside the hospital, Dreg meets up with Ben and asks him what he thinks he’s doing. Ben tells him that he summoned the Queller Feller to “[clean] up Glory’s mess,” as he’s always done. Back at the hospital the next day, Joyce asks Buffy if Dawn is really hers. Buffy admits that she’s not. Joyce notes that she “belongs” to them and gets Buffy to promise to take care of her, no matter what. Joyce is finally taken in for surgery as the Scoobies watch anxiously.

MORAL, or CRAMMING COMPLEX ISSUES INTO A NUTSHELL: “Killer snot monster” is fun to say.

GRADE: C+ Crazy Joyce is a little too annoying.

MEMORABLE QUOTES - “Oh, I feel just like Santa Claus, except thinner and younger and female and, well, Jewish. This is an extra special gift for your mom, that I know she'll need. A beer hat! See, i-it's got cup holders, and a straw that goes directly into your mouth, and you can fill it with other stuff than beer. And somehow, when I was in the store this seemed like the most important idea, and now there's the whole part where I'm crazy.” - Willow

“You got her a book on spells. The girl who can break things by just looking at them, now has a book to teach her to…break things by looking at them?” - Buffy to Willow

Willow: “I have this for you.”
Buffy: “Homework? Oh. I don't believe in tiny Jewish Santa anymore.”

Willow: “You know what's weird?”
Tara: “Japanese commercials are weird.”

Willow: “There's…Canis Minor…and…and Cassiopeia.”
Tara: “And the big pineapple.”
Willow: “Hmm. You know, I'm not sure I remember that one.”
Tara: “Oh, it's, it's a major one. See those three bright stars right over there?”
Willow: “Yeah.”
Tara: “And see those stars along there? That's the bottom of the pineapple.”
Willow: “It's big.”
Tara: Hence the name. The real ones never made sense to me; I…sort of have my own.”
Willow: Teach me.”
Tara: “See those stars over there? ‘Short man looking uncomfortable.’ Uh…‘moose getting a sponge bath.’ Umm…‘little pile o' crackers.’ Tha-that was a bit of a stretch.”

Willow: “Something evil crashed to earth in this and then broke out and…slithered away to do badness.”
Giles: “In all fairness, we don't really know about the slithered part.”
Anya: “Oh, no. I'm sure it frisked about like a fluffy lamb.”

Riley: “Oh, that might be toxic, don't touch it.”
Xander: “Oh, yeah, touching it was my first impulse.”

Xander: “I still don't get why we had to come here to get info about a killer snot monster.”
Giles: “Because it's a killer snot monster from outer space.” (pause) “I did not say that.”

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